Back to top

Case History: Erol Önderoglu

Status: 
Acquitted
About the situation

On 17 July 2019, the final hearing in the case of the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Representative to Turkey, Erol Önderoğlu, writer Ahmet Nesin, and the Chair of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur-Fincancı was held at the İstanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court. The Court ruled for the acquittal of all three human rights defenders.

The 10th hearing in the trial against human rights defenders Şebnem Korur Financı, Erol Önderoğlu and Ahmet Nesin was held on 15 April 2019 in the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

On 11 January 2017, the Istanbul Caglayan 13th Heavy Penal Court postponed the court hearing in a case of human rights defenders, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Erol Önderoğlu and Ahmet Nesin to 17 March.

On 20 June 2016, human rights defenders Ms Sebnem Korur Fincanci, Mr Ahmet Nesin and Mr Erol Önderoğlu were placed in detention by decision of the 1st High Court of Peace in Istanbul, pending an investigation into their alleged involvement in the propaganda of terrorism. Erol Önderoğlu and Ahmet Nesin are being held in Metris prison and Sebnem Korur Fincanci in Bakirkoy prison, Istanbul.

On 30 June 2016, the 13th High Criminal Court ordered the provisional release of Sebnem Korur Fincanci and Erol Önderoğlu. On 1 July 2016, the 14th Heavy Penal Court ordered the provisional release of Ahmet Nesin.

About Erol Önderoglu

erol_onderogluErol Önderoglu is a correspondent of the human rights organisation Reporters Without Borders in Turkey and the Editor of Bianet, a Turkish website that covers political, social and cultural affairs with special attention to human rights and freedoms. Bianet publishes a quarterly press freedom report and a monthly review of women's rights in Turkey.

17 July 2019
Erol Önderoğlu, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Ahmet Nesin acquitted

On 17 July 2019, the final hearing in the case of the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Representative to Turkey, Erol Önderoğlu, writer Ahmet Nesin, and the Chair of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur-Fincancı was held at the İstanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court. The Court ruled for the acquittal of all three human rights defenders.

They had been charged with "propagandising for a terrorist organisation" for their participation to the "Editors-in-Chief on Watch" campaign in solidarity with the Özgür Gündem newspaper, which was closed by Statutory Decree no. 675. They were arrested on 20 June 2016. Erol Önderoğlu and Şebnem Korur Fincancı were released 10 days later on 30 June 2016, whereas Ahmet Nesin was released on 1 July 2016.

 

16 April 2019
Next hearing in the case against Önderoğlu, Fincancı and Nesin scheduled for 17 July 2019

The 10th hearing in the trial against human rights defenders Şebnem Korur Financı, Erol Önderoğlu and Ahmet Nesin was held on 15 April 2019 in the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The human rights defenders are being prosecuted for taking part in the “Editor-in-Chief on Watch” campaign launched in May 2016 to show solidarity with the pro-Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem ("Free Agenda"), persecuted by the Turkish government in an attempt to suppress freedom of speech. As part of the campaign, which lasted for three months, 44 journalists, writers, activists and artists took turns serving as editors-in-chief of the newspaper for a period of one day. The journal was shut down on 16 August 2016.

During the previous hearing, the prosecutor requested the imprisonment of Şebnem Korur Financı, Erol Önderoğlu and Ahmet Nesin on charges of “inciting the committing of crimes,” “praising crime and criminals” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization”, punishable under article 214 and article 215/1 of the Turkish Penal Code and article 7/2 of the Turkish Law on the Fight Against Terrorism.

The hearing on 15 April 2019 was monitored by numerous observers, including representatives of international civil society organisations. Front Line Defenders, along with several international organizations, signed a joint statement to support human rights defenders Erol Önderoğlu, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Ahmet Nesin, who have been subjected to a trial lasting almost three years and for whom a verdict was expected on April 15, 2019. The government of Turkey is called on to cease oppression of journalists, academics and writers.

It was expected that the court would pronounce the verdict after the final defence statements of Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Erol Önderoğlu. However, since the lawyer of Şebnem Korur Fincancı could not attend the hearing due to health issues, only Erol Önderoğlu delivered his defence statement. As Ahmet Nesin, currently living abroad, had made a defence statement in his country of residence, the court had previously revoked the arrest warrant issued for him on 28 January 2019.

The court postponed the hearing to 17 July 2019, giving the lawyer of Şebnem Korur Fincancı time to prepare his defence. While the request for an extension of the scope of prosecution raised by Ahmet Nesin's lawyer was rejected, the court accepted Erol Önderoğlu’s request to be exempted from having to attend the hearings.

In his defence statement, Erol Önderoğlu asserted that the prosecutor’s opinion was based on news headlines whose publication the defendants were not responsible for, as they were not acting as editors-in-chief at the time. Further, he underlined that no progress had been made in their case since the beginning of the trial, and that they had spent the last 2.5 years facing an indictment prepared hastily in one day. Finally, he drew attention to the fact that their case reflected the common pressure exerted on human rights defenders and journalists in Turkey.

11 July 2016
HRDs Sebnem Korur Fincanci, Ahmet Nesin and Erol Önderoğlu conditionally released

On 30 June 2016, the 13th High Criminal Court of Instanbul ordered the conditional release of human rights defenders Sebnem Korur Fincanci and Erol Önderoğlu. The following day, the 14th Heavy Penal Court ordered the conditional release of human rights defender Ahmet Nesin. The three HRDs are still facing charges under the Anti Terror Law, pending an investigation into their alleged involvement in terrorist propaganda. They were arrested on 20 June 2016 and questioned in relation to their participation in a freedom of expression campaign. The next hearing has been scheduled for 8 November 2016.

Sebnem Korur Fincanci, Ahmet Nesin and Erol Önderoğlu were questioned in relation to their participation in the 'Guest Editor in Chief Campaign', organised to show solidarity with the Özgür Gündem (Free Agenda) newspaper and to defend the freedom of press in Turkey against the harassment of, and investigations against, its journalists.  

Since the recommencement of the conflict between the Kurdish population of the country and the Turkish government in July 2015, pressure on media outlets in Turkey - especially those reporting on the conflict itself - has increased significantly. Özgür Gündem, one of the most renowned newspapers devoted to Kurdish issues, has also been targeted by the government. In March 2016, an investigation was opened against the newspaper into its alleged involvement in the propaganda of terrorism. On 3 May 2016, World Press Day, Özgür Gündem began the 'Guest Editor in Chief Campaign' aimed at demonstrating solidarity with the newspaper which had been persecuted by the Turkish government in its attempt to suppress freedom of speech. To date, the campaign has attracted forty-four journalists and human rights defenders, who take turns serving as the Editor in Chief of Özgür Gündem for a period of one day. Sebnem Korur Fincanci, Ahmet Nesin and Erol Önderoğlu have taken part in this campaign. The Office of the Prosecutor has initiated investigations into the alleged propaganda of terrorism in respect of 37 of those participating in the campaign.

Front Line Defenders welcomes the conditional release of human rights defenders Sebnem Korur Fincanci, Ahmet Nesin and Erol Önderoğlu, but it expresses serious concern on the ongoing judicial harassment and calls on the Turkish authorities to drop charges against them.

21 June 2016
Detention of three human rights defenders

On 20 June 2016, human rights defenders Ms Sebnem Korur Fincanci, Mr Ahmet Nesin and Mr Erol Önderoğlu were placed in detention by decision of the 1st High Court of Peace in Istanbul, pending an investigation into their alleged involvement in the propaganda of terrorism. Erol Önderoğlu and Ahmet Nesin are being held in Metris prison and Sebnem Korur Fincanci in Bakirkoy prison, Istanbul.

Sebnem Korur Fincanci is a human rights defender and the President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey since 2009. The Foundation is involved in the documentation of cases of torture, rehabilitation of vicitms and the provision of legal assistance to them. Sebnem Korur Fincanci is also one of the founding members of the Forensic Doctors’ Association and has played a major role in the development of the United Nations reference standards on the investigation and documentation of cases of torture, the Istanbul Protocol. In 2014 Sebnem Korur Fincanci was presented the International Hrant Dink Award for her human rights work. Erol Önderoğlu is a correspondent for Reporters Without Borders in Turkey and the Editor of Bianet, a Turkish website that covers political, social and cultural affairs with special attention paid to fundamental rights and freedoms. Bianet publishes a press freedom report every quarter. Ahmet Nesin is a journalist, blogger and human rights defender advocating for the freedom of press.

On 20 June 2016, the 1st High Court of Peace in Istanbul ruled to detain Sebnem Korur Fincanci, Ahmet Nesin and Erol Önderoğlu, pending an investigation into their alleged involvement in the propaganda of terrorism. The human rights defenders presented themselves after they had received arrest warrants, and were referred to the 1st High Court of Peace after testifying before the Istanbul Court House earlier that day. There Sebnem Korur Fincanci, Ahmet Nesin and Erol Önderoğlu were questioned in relation to their participation in the 'Guest Editor in Chief Campaign', organised to show solidarity with the “Özgür Gündem” (Free Agenda) newspaper and to defend the freedom of press in Turkey against the harassment of, and investigations against, its journalists.  

Since the recommencement of the conflict between the Kurdish population of the country and the Turkish government in July 2015, pressure on media outlets in Turkey - especially those reporting on the conflict itself - has increased significantly. Özgür Gündem, one of the most renowned newspapers devoted to Kurdish issues, has also been targeted by the government. In March 2016, an investigation was opened against the newspaper into its alleged involvement in the propaganda of terrorism. On 3 May 2016, World Press Day, Özgür Gündem began the 'Guest Editor in Chief Campaign' aimed at demonstrating solidarity with the newspaper which had been persecuted by the Turkish government in its attempt to suppress freedom of speech. To date, the campaign has attracted forty-four journalists and human rights defenders, who take turns serving as the Editor in Chief of Özgür Gündem for a period of one day. Sebnem Korur Fincanci, Ahmet Nesin and Erol Önderoğlu have taken part in this campaign. The Office of the Prosecutor has initiated investigations into the alleged propaganda of terrorism in respect of thirty seven of those participating in the campaign.

Front Line Defenders condemns the detention of, and investigation opened against, human rights defenders Sebnem Korur Fincanci, Ahmet Nesin and Erol Önderoğlu, which it believes to be directly linked to their legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of freedom of press in Turkey. 

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Turkey to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release Sebnem Korur Fincanci, Ahmet Nesin and Erol Önderoğlu, and close the investigation against them, as Front Line Defenders believes that they are being held solely as a result of their legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;
2. Immediately cease all persecution, harassment and intimidatory acts targeting the participants of the peaceful campaign organised in support of the Özgür Gündem newspaper;
3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Turkey are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.